(I drafted this entry before the events of September 8. See the relevant post for more details on that. Didn't want people connecting the two... which shows my state of mind since, I think.)
"That's the main thing I've found with fan-created sites; as real life closes in, the site suffers because, let's face it, real life trumps fan-stuff every time." Me, August 23, 2008.
I wrote this when I recounted the revival of an archive that I'd thought had been dead/dying, but that has been resurrected in a new form. My question was - and still is - will the owner's commitment to his archive endure? I hope so, but knowing his past history, I'm skeptical.
However, during the past couple of weeks, I've come to realize something else that affects fan-created sites of all stripes: the "bright, shiny, new". This happens when a new, cool show/movie/book/what-have-you catches someone's attention and they basically drop the fandom(s) they're currently involved in like a lead weight to reach after the new thing. This isn't always a bad thing; people do mature in fandom and moving out of a fandom isn't always precipitated by a new one coming along. Sometimes it's not a dropping of one fandom, but an adding of another, with a fan giving both equal attention. But, in my own experience, it's often the first case that leaves archives, websites or messageboards abandoned by their owners - unless they turn the sites/boards over to someone who is responsible and enthusiastic about carrying it on.
Why is this particular observation coming to me now? Because I think I've got the "bright, shiny, new" myself. Not for another fandom. But more for other websites, other opportunities on sites where concentrated participation is de rigeur. Sites where, if you want to be read, reviewed, whatever, you must reciprocate - and reciprocate a lot. Sites that require focused daily attention.
Now, this isn't always a bad thing, either. For any one site to have a lively, panfandom atmosphere is rare, I think, and can be an interesting place. FanLib was like this; a lot of writers bravely read outside their fandoms, outside their comfort zones, and not only read but reviewed and gave good constructive criticism. I enjoyed that immensely, both from the giving and the receiving ends.
It's just that, for me to participate to the level that was expected, I found I had less and less time to devote to those fandom-specific ventures that I myself have started, or that have been entrusted to me by others. My own sites, in particular my MSN Groups, have languished, with only the occasional news item and the monthly caption contests keeping the sites from looking like they've been abandoned. My C2 community has been comatose for the past couple of years; I keep wanting to revive it, but never seem to have the time. I have seen so many things happen to other sites - their owners don't want to destroy them, but they don't have the time or inclination to keep up with them, or add to them. It makes me sad and irritated when the only posts I find on an otherwise interesting site are from "lonely singles" spammers that a somewhat interested group owner could remove with a couple of clicks.
And it's not just sites, it's fanworks, too. How many WIPs have fallen by the wayside due to this? I've been moving like molasses on my own three, and I get angry at myself about it. I'm determined not to abandon them, but it gets harder and harder to make the time to write each day. There are other storylines clamoring for my attention, not just in fanfiction, but in my role play as well. The role play comes first, the WIP second. When will the new ideas get their time if I'm determined to finish what I've begun before I start something new? (Not to mention that NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!)
So, which way do I go? Do I reach out to the newer sites, give them my time and energy? Do I go back and concentrate my efforts on my older sites? Do I shrink my fannish circle or do I expand it?
It's time to reprioritize and decide what is most important to the fan in me.